Premier League preview
It will be a case of master versus apprentice when Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea lock horns, while Sunderland continue life post-Paolo Di Canio.
Last Updated: 28/09/13 8:39pm
It will be a case of master versus apprentice when Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur lock horns on Saturday lunchtime, while Sunderland continue life post-Paolo Di Canio on home soil against Liverpool.
Swansea City and Arsenal should put on a show to satisfy the purists on Saturday Night Football, while there will be a tale of two cities in the opening encounter of a Super Sunday double-header as Stoke play host to Norwich.
The Premier League weekend kicks off at White Hart Lane, with Tottenham Hotspur's home date with Chelsea expected to see as many eyes fall on the respective dugouts as events unfolding on the field. Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas learnt his coaching trade under the watchful eye of Jose Mourinho, but is now very much his own man and will want to show the self-proclaimed 'Special One' that he took plenty from the time spent as his go-to scout. Spurs' record against the Blues is not the best, to put it mildly - winning just three of 42 Premier League meetings - but they have opened the season in impressive style and boast the meanest defence in the top flight. Chelsea have also kept things tight at the back, conceding only twice, but both sides have struggled at the opposite end of the field and will want to address those issues on derby day.
Manchester City have no such troubles at present, with 12 goals plundered in their last three outings in all competitions. Four of those came during last weekend's derby demolition of Manchester United, with a resounding victory over their fiercest rivals suggesting that all is well in the City camp under new boss Manuel Pellegrini. His next challenge is to keep the momentum going during a trip to Aston Villa. The one criticism of City under Pellegrini would be their performances on the road in the league, and Villa Park has not always been a happy hunting ground for the Blues. Villa have, however, come unstuck in each of their two home league games so far and conceded four in front of their own supporters in a Capital One Cup clash with Tottenham on Tuesday.
Midweek cup duty was a lot kinder to Manchester United - and it needed to be given how things have gone for David Moyes so far. The fixture list has done the new Red Devils boss few favours, but he knows that the expectation at Old Trafford is to win every game, regardless of the opposition. Overcoming Liverpool on Wednesday has helped to ease some of the pressure on his shoulders and United would appear to be a position to really ignite their season. West Bromwich Albion are next on the calendar, before a number of winnable fixtures on paper carry the reigning champions through October. Moyes cannot afford to take the Baggies lightly, though, and a 5-5 draw the last time the two clubs met suggests there could be more fireworks at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday.
Fulham could do with finding a spark of their own from somewhere, with a slow start having dropped them into the bottom three. Goals are proving to be something of a problem for the Cottagers, which is surprising given the enviable array of attacking talent they have at their disposal. A welcome victory in League Cup competition on Tuesday saw them inflict a first defeat on Everton under Roberto Martinez, so Martin Jol will be hoping that the tide has turned. Cardiff City are the next visitors to the banks of the River Thames - with the Bluebirds having been rocked slightly by a testing opening to life among the top flight heavyweights, but with enough about them to offer hope heading forward that they can start landing a few crushing blows of their own.
West Ham United saw off Cardiff for a second time this season in midweek to secure cup progress, but they have failed to win in the league since ruining the Bluebirds' big day on the opening weekend. Sam Allardyce has had injury problems to contend with, and had every reason to feel hard done by after being left empty-handed against Everton last weekend, but he is in the results business and needs the Hammers to start showing the steely grit his managerial career has been defined by. A trip to Hull City on Saturday will provide another stern test of Allardyce's credentials, with the Tigers unbeaten on home soil so far and buoyed by a productive start to their first campaign back at English football's top table - with seven points collected from five games.
Southampton are one of only seven sides that can better that return, with heavy summer investment at St Mary's providing an immediate return. Mauricio Pochettino will be slightly concerned that his side have mustered just three goals in five outings, but they have suffered only one defeat and collected back-to-back clean sheets. The most recent of those came at Anfield, with Dejan Lovren's header handing the Saints a first success on the red half of Merseyside in almost 10 years. They will be confident of replicating those heroics against Crystal Palace, with the Eagles having been offered a brutal reminder of just how difficult life in the Premier League can be with four defeats in five.
The final game on Saturday, and the setting for Saturday Night Football, sees Swansea City pitch their neat passing game against the top flight benchmark when it comes to possession football. Arsenal have taken up residence at the top of the table after offering the perfect response to a shambolic opening day showing which saw them end a defeat to Aston Villa with 10 men and with terrace taunts ringing in the ears of manager Arsene Wenger. Eight straight victories have been secured in all competitions since then - including a penalty shoot-out success on Wednesday against West Brom - with the likes of Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey back to their best and summer signings Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini highlighting how important they could be to the Gunners cause over the next few months.
Turning the attention to Sunday, and Stoke City will want to pile more misery on Norwich City when the Sky Sports cameras descend on the Britannia Stadium. Mark Hughes knew it would take time to alter the Potters' public image upon inheriting the managerial reins from Tony Pulis, but he would appear to have them heading in the right direction. They will not be the only side to come unstuck at Liverpool and Arsenal this season, and they appear to have lost none of their ability to grind out results when dogged determination is required. Norwich showed against Watford on Wednesday that they also have the ability to dig themselves out of a hole, but they are yet to display such traits on the Premier League stage and will need no reminding of how important it is to start putting points on the board if they are to avoid becoming wedged in a scrap at the wrong end of the division.
After starting with three successive 1-0 victories, Liverpool have now gone three games without a win in all competitions and remain without a goal in the second half of any of their fixtures so far. The return of Luis Suarez to domestic action against Manchester United in midweek should help to reverse that trend, but he is still short on match sharpness and needs to play his way back into top form. He is likely to get another much-needed run-out against Sunderland, making him a leading character in a Stadium of Light soap opera which opened on Sunday evening with the dismissal of Paolo Di Canio after just 175 days in charge. Caretaker coach, and Black Cats legend, Kevin Ball will oversee first team affairs on Sunday, but Sunderland desperately need to find stability from somewhere if they are to shake out of an alarming slump which already has them rooted to the foot of the table with just one point to their name.